Thursday, January 31, 2013

If I Was In Charge... Of The Avengers! Part One!

Every single person who watches movies, reads books, attends plays, or listens to music has at one time or another made the same statement: "I could do better than that!" It's a phrase I've never truly understood, as it seems to question the speaker's opinion of their own work. For instance, if I said I could direct a better movie than Uwe Boll (which I totally could), one has to wonder how my ego applies: do I think I could make a great movie, which would mean Uwe Boll's work is simply average, or is my opinion of my own work so bad that it makes Boll's work abominable? Or do I somehow believe that there's enough of a gap between my own ability and Uwe Boll's that my movie would be great while his is equivalent to the caked-on-the-floor layers of cat urine you see in any episode of Pet Hoarders?

For the record, his is the equivalent of cat urine.

Now, if my experience on the Internet has taught me nothing else, it's that I'm right, everyone else is wrong, so that takes care of the ego aspect of this argument.  To prove I am a benevolent ruler of this blog, I will graciously share what I consider to be the idea line-ups for the three core "Avengers" teams, both the "deals with big threats" squad, the "street level challenges, if you consider super villains based on constillations to be street level" team, and the "shhh, they don't exist cause they're secret" team.

Feel free to submit responses as to why I'm wrong and why the evidence clearly indicates (naturally) that I consumed a lot of lead paint growing up.

Now, the rules:

1)  Only twelve members per team.  More than that, and it's just completely unmanageable.  Unless you're writing the Legion of Superheroes, of course.

2)  Half the team has to be people who were members before.  Otherwise, I'm not making the Avengers.  I'm making, at best, The Champions or The Secret Defenders.

3) No inserting any characters whose secret origin is from one of the fanfics I tried writing during my foolish younger years.  So, apologies to Zephyr, Teshup, and Bloodknifestabber.  (Bonus game: Figure out which one I created during the 90s)

So, let's start with the BIG team.  These are the guys who show up to fight Ultron, Ego the Living Planet, and deal with interstellar wars that spill over to Earth.  They are the A-team (not the one with Mr. T or the remake), the guys who, when the chips are down, get the job done.

They're also the easiest to begin with, because you're going to see some popular names here.  Starting with the first three:

1, 2, and 3)  Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man.

It's really quite simple: without these three, you don't have the Avengers.  Sure, occasionally one goes on hiatus or needs to leave to deal with a personal matter, but this set is the embodiment of everything the Avengers can handle.  With Thor, you have magic, Iron Man is technology, and Cap is the human element.   You also have, in that assemblage, a warrior, a tactician, and an engineer, reinforcing the idea that the Avengers is, in of itself, a balanced force that is prepared to face any threat.

Now, I can't imagine the key Avengers team without Cap leading it.  I've tried, and each time I always find it lacking.  Not only do you have a seasoned military mind, but you have the man who, over most other people who have ever been on this team, will be the last one standing when evil is about to triumph.  He is the one person who, right when the bad guy has ultimate victory right in its grasp, will spit in its eye and swing for the fences every time.

Iron Man, of course, is just as essential.  If technology advances as fast as it does in our world, it only makes sense that you need the mind behind the most advanced technology (not including Reed Richards and his "making stuff up as he goes along" science) on the planet to back you up.  Tony Stark is the Mr. Spock to Cap's Captain Kirk.  ...actually, he's more the Riker to his Picard.  But anyway.

Thor, of course, is the big gun you call into any situation.  If it can stand up to the might of the God of Thunder, then it clearly is an Avengers-level threat.  More manageable than the Hulk, and more versatile than any other brawler the Avengers have seen, Thor will lead the way in any battle and, after Cap, be one of the last standing out of sheer determination.

Plus, there's the intimidation factor.  Whether it's "We would have words with thee," "I say thee nay," or"Base villain, now you face the might of the Avengers!" anything that emerges from the lips of Thor carries more weight than if, say, Starfox says it.  He provides that classic heraldry that seems to indicate just how noble the Avengers' spirit truly is.

4)  Hawkeye

I love this character so much.  Not originally, mind you, but after the Busiek/Perez run of Avengers I really understood what makes the character so great.  Hawkeye in unique amongst the Avengers (save for one or two others who have their own reasoning) in that he made being an Avenger his entire life.  There's a new series out right now showing what happens when he isn't in costume, but for a long time there was no other life outside of wearing purple and shooting arrows at bad guys.  Hawkeye put himself into being an Avenger 24/7, even if he was on other teams, in which case he did his best to raise that team to "Avengers-level standards."

There's always that sense that, if the call goes out for heroes, before the summoner can even say "Well, let's see who shows up," Hawkeye will slam the door open and ask what's going on.  He is the best example of redemption the Avengers have (remember, before he was a hero, he was an honest-to-god super villain, one able to stalemate Iron Man without ultra-fancy arrows), and is frequently underrated by both characters in his universe and the people who write him, often enough.

5)  Scarlet Witch

Wanda Maximoff had it pretty rough the last few years.  She went insane, blew up the Avengers home base, rewrote reality, depowered most of the mutant population, then got caught up in a plot by Dr. Doom.  However, she's back in the good graces of most people these days, which is great because that whole lengthy storyline was capital "D" dumb.

The daughter of Magneto, Wanda is another example of redemption, having been one of the founding members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  She and her brother Quicksilver turned against their father and decided to fight for justice instead.  She's also ridiculously powerful, able to manipulate chance and probability on either a micro-level (a bad guy's gun happens to jam) to a ridiculously powerful level (see the above-mentioned story lines).  While it does make sense that you'd want to keep someone who can rewrite reality close by, I think they're done trying to play around with Wanda's sanity, and it comes in handy having a bona-fide mystic on the team to add some additional mystical impact (beyond that of Thor's hammer, at any rate).

6)  Spider-Man

Yeah, I know, there's some freaky storyline right now going on about Doctor Octopus in Peter's body and yadda-yadda, it won't be temporary.  Major changes never are.

So, once we get that silly storyline out of the way, we can get him back on a team he belongs with, having been, for years, the biggest team-up character the Marvel Universe has ever had.  Seriously, he's been on the Fantastic Four, he's palled around with the X-Men, he knows Power Pack on a first name basis, the guy's even visited Ka-Zar a few times down in the Savage Land.  Besides the Thing (who starred in Marvel Two-In-One), I can't think of any other character who's teamed up with more heroes than him and has fought everything from cosmic threats to street thugs.

Marvel was smart enough to get rid of the "oh, he works best solo" deal once, get him fixed up and back on the team already, people.  We ain't buying it. the figurative sense, I think book sales are actually pretty good right now, but- anyway, that's not my point.

Okay, here's where we start to drift from a classic Avengers line-up.

7)  Songbird

Another story of redemption, Songbird was once Screaming Mimi.  Screaming Mimi was, for all intents and purposes, lame.  Then the book Thunderbolts came along and took and idea that, anywhere else, would be a lame Green Lantern rip-off and made it into one of the best characters of the late 90s/early 00s.  Strong, powerful, and determined, she's lead the Thunderbolts at certain times (granted, during the strange Norman Osborn days), has a strong working knowledge of a lot of the criminal threats that the Avengers might face,

She's also the one person on the team who I think would keep them the most grounded.  If, at any time, the Avengers started to overstep their limits, she'd be the person able to recognize the fastest how close they'd be becoming something they often fought against.  After all, who better to state "hey, maybe we need to step back and rethink this" than someone who served under super villain and successful world conqueror Baron Zemo multiple times?

It's her time to be on the lead team, and I even think it might work for her to study under Cap as a "protege leader."  She's got the chops, she just needs to fine tune them.

8)  Rogue

So, one thing I like about the current Avengers books is that they have people taken from the X-Men and applied here.  One who definitely deserves a shot at being a "big leaguer" is Rogue, who can't get away from mutant drama and Gambit fast enough, in my opinion.

You're probably catching on that, in the Avengers history, there are a lot of people who started out bad.  Rogue's another example of that, having fought the X-Men, mind-wiping another hero (Carol Danvers, who I have no idea what she's going by any more code-name wise) and leaving her in a coma, and has dragged along that "Ah can't touch anybody" drama for waayyyyyy too long.  What she is, distilled down to her essence, is someone who lives to help other people, packing strength, flight, southern charm, and a neat "power-stealing" ability that also works for things like "hey, try really hard not to think of where the bombs are planted while I honk your nose."

9)  Banshee

Theresa Rourke, formerly "Siryn" is the daughter of deceased X-Men member Banshee who later decided to take on her father's name because banshees have always been women and his name never made much sense to begin with.  She shares his mutant gift of having a sonic scream that hits like a freight train and allows her to fly, as well as some subtle tricks she can pull with her voice to manipulate people.

Yes, this does make two sound people on a team if Songbird is around, but I also have several people with super-strength, and nobody is complaining about them.  Songbird and Siryn use similar power origins in completely different ways, allowing enough versatility that in this case I'd allow it.  She's also an established hero, having served on several X-teams, keeps her cool on the battlefield, and brings one more amazingly attractive accent to the party.  And there's always room for accents that great.

Okay, those were strange they get bizarre.

10)  Sasquatch


Walter Langowski, formerly (once I'm done with him) of the team Alpha Flight, is one of Canada's premiere superheroes.  Now, here's one thing I want in my version of the "premiere" Avengers, and that's a bit more international flavor.  You can't really be "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" if everyone on your team is either from America or Asgard (granted, you get the occasional Russian who speaks with a perfect American accent or a guy from a made up country in Africa, but it's still predominately "USA! USA! USA!").

With Wanda we get some of that Eastern European flavor, Theresa's decidedly Irish (and comes with her own haunted castle!  Someone needs to remind Marvel about that!), and Walt would fill in the hole for someone being from our neighbors to the north.  He's a keen scientific mind who also happens to turn into a giant, shaggy beast who punches holes in walls like they were made of paper.  He's also a neat tie to some long-ignored story lines, like the "Great Old Ones" that exist in the frozen north, and perhaps with some Avengers back-up they could finally shut down that ridiculous "Weapon X" program that keeps turning people into weapons.

11) Radioactive Man

Okay, now you guys must think I'm just messing with you.

Chen Lu was, up until a short time back, a major villain threat that the Avengers frequently faced.  He used to go mano-a-mano with Thor, was part of the original Masters of Evil, and fought everybody from Spider-Man to Iron Man...but here's the thing.  On his own, he's never really been evil.  He once joined a few Russian super villains in Vietnam, trying to be superheroes there (before a confused mix-up with the Avengers happened), and also served, quite well I might add, as part of the Thunderbolts, which is all about (here's that word again), redemption.

With China being so key in the world scene right now, I really don't think you can justify having 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes" not try to include someone from that country, and who better than a villain who seems to honestly be trying to make himself a better person in a changing world?  I mean, really, it's not like they're going to get any stranger than this, right?

12)  Ginny Mahoney (no codename)

Poor girl's suffering from a bad case of "90's Art"

Sit down!  I promise, this makes sense!

Ginny Mahoney was a throw-away character, introduced in an issue of X-Men Unlimited as a young woman turned into a prime sentinel (it involves nanotechs, don't worry about it, the storyline was very silly) trying to hunt down and capture/kill mutants.  However, upon realizing that she was more of a threat to civilians around her than the mutants she was hunting, she managed to override her own programming (something nobody else who was a prime sentinel ever managed to do up to that point) and fled the scene.  Now, to be fair, the last page of the comic indicates she was shot in the head by super villain Bastion and "was never found again."

But considering how often "forever" works in comics, I think we can just ignore that, don't you?

That "redemption" theme would come back into play again, as someone who is constantly fighting against a power inside of her that was designed solely to hunt and kill a specific group of people, and there's just added drama when it happens to be people you're on the same team with.  It would be a constant challenge, at first, to prove that she's more than what she was programmed to be, and that she deserves the second chance she's been given (something Rogue, Hawkeye, and Songbird would all sympathize with, I think).

Plus, won't it be nice the first time the Avengers have to fight an X-Men villain, they'll have someone on the team who can say "Oh, yeah, I was created to fight against people like you...non-lethal, of course..."

So that's my pick for the primary Avengers team.  Some of the old guard, some established heroes, and a few newbies to help round it out.  Before anybody cries out "how could you leave out X or Y or ZZZZZeeeeeeeeee," let me point out I'm not done yet.  I still have two more teams of Avengers to build, and believe me, they're going to get stranger from here!

(If you do wish to complain, of course, you can always send me an email telling me that my choices prove that I spent too much time drinking from that creek downstream from the chemical plant or leave a comment below!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode 4

Here at Erik's Random Assortment of Thoughts, we try to keep in mind that, without readers, there isn't much point to writing posts.  We're also aware that not everyone is interested in the same things Erik is.  That's why we have "Ask Erik," where you can bring up the topics you're interested in and subvert discuss them.

To Erik:  Zombie team.  Humans only.  Three people.  Who do you pick?  Bonus round: historical figures only.

Okay, I'm going to lay down some ground rules to begin.  First of all, my team are not the only survivors left alive.  If I realize it's down to four of us against a world, and knowing that repopulating a species is impossible even if it was two men and two women, I'd save myself the struggle (and inevitable defeat) and eat a bullet.  Because seriously, even if we found that tropical island that could sustain four people and not run out of food, and even if my three choices were Kari Byron, Elin Grindemyr, and Kym Johnson, eventually "the only people left alive" madness would settle in, and things go downhill from there.  This will just be my "initial team," as we try to get to more survivors or secure an area.

Second rule, if the fictional human exists, the rules of their home dimension exist.  If I take a Green Lantern, odds are I'll have to eventually deal with cosmic yellow space bugs, and who wants that?  If I pick Douglas Quaid, I might have the benefit of all of his shots being head shots, but then there's a good chance I'm fighting three-breasted prostitute zombies on Mars.

So, before I reveal my top three choices, I need to discuss who won't be making my list and why.  After all, in a land where the dead roam the Earth, you really do get opportunities to pick your friends, am I right?

So the first person I'd pass on, if I found them wandering the wasteland, is Frank Castle, the Punisher.

"But Erik," you're saying, "Frank Castle is a stone cold antihero with an arsenal bigger than the entire United States military and has survived everything from being turned into Frankenstein to fighting monsters in space!  Why wouldn't you want him?".

"Well," I'd say, despite the fact that there is no chance we can hear each other from where you are to where I'm typing this, "that's because, for all of the pluses in the "yes" column, there is one major point in the "no" column: to Frank Castle, I'm a liability."  See, one thing that many people who write the Punisher know is that there is no happy ending for this guy.  So, even if crime is limited only to the shattered remains of civilization, in the eyes of this guy, "helping this nerd with glasses survive" is pretty low on the priority list.  Hell, survival for himself might be low on the list, as the collapse of civilization probably means all major crime families have fallen apart.  Either way, I could picture him watching the zombies get me and thinking, "finally, no more distractions."

This next one is going to feel like heresy, but the next person I wouldn't pick is Angus MacGyver.

I know, I know, just sit down and listen!  Look, I love MacGyver, I really do.  It was my favorite show growing up, and having a guy who can build anything out of anything would certainly be handy, but where the Punisher is too focused on his mission, MacGyver is a proven pacifist who has never intentionally taken a life (or unlife).  His creative (non-violent) solutions are amazing, and while they might work with spies and mobsters, I need something a bit more permanent and spectacular, so I'm taking someone else.

Besides, having MacGyver along means eventually we'd meet Murdoc, and I'm not ready to have that happen.

Other people I considered and turned down:

Judge Dredd (likely to shoot me for jaywalking)
Arcade (I love the thought of using Murderworld as a hideout, but Arcade really has no loyalty)
The Medic from Team Fortress 2 (the medic always dies first)
Doctor Doom (again, I'm not so much a teammate as a convenience)
Batman (again, bringing him in allows for things like random Joker appearances and I'd rather face the zombies)
Susan Sto Helit (technically she is's just "some things run deeper than genetics" so I'm disqualifying my #1 pick)
Techno Viking (he already is a one man zombie team, I'd be redundant, and redundancies die)

So, who are my final picks?

1). Agatha Heterodyne

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "Who?"

Well, without spoiling too much, Agatha Heterodyne is the main character from the Phil and Kaja Folio web (and printed) comic Girl Genius.  She's what happens when you take someone like MacGyver and imbue him with the ability to make sweet steampunk gaslight fantasy (Kaja's term) devices and then imbue her with just a liiiiiiiiiiittle bit of mad scientist.  

Just a touch.

While MacGyver could easily create most anything from supplies lying around, if I'm facing the zombie horde I'd much prefer someone who can cobble together things that don't go together to wind up with ray guns, a runcible chaingun, or a miniature mechanical combat suit that can stalemate one of the best sword fighters in the world while the wearer is asleep.  Now, to be fair, I'm skirting the "human" here as she's technically classified as a "spark," but as near as I can tell it doesn't make you not human to be a spark, it's more like an interesting way your brain is programmed.  I'm going to let it count because it's my blog, and I make the rules.

And, since I'm allowing things from their original dimension to "bleed" in, hanging out with Agatha means I might come upon anything from a dirigible city to an intelligent mechanized death trap castle.  Whatever it is, it would quickly go from "zombie adventure with steampunk ingredients" to "steampunk adventure!  ...with zombies, I guess."

Now, I could complete my task with two other Girl Genius characters (Zeetha and Higgs), but that'd be cheating.  ...though, having Higgs would be awesome.

really awesome

 2. Juliet Starling

I'm going to do a full review of the game Lollipop Chainsaw soon, but as soon as I was asked to build my zombie team, in the back of my mind I had a feeling this character would show up.  Juliet Starling is the titular (in every sense of the word) star of the afore-mentioned video game, and she brings two very important things to this struggle.

1)  A chainsaw that never needs refueling.

2) She's been trained from childhood to be a hunter of dark, demonic (and frequently undead) forces.  Her entire family does this for both fun and profit.  While her older sister and father have more experience in dealing with horrors from beyond the grave and other monsters whose existence man can barely comprehend, I'm going to side with the one who seems to have just as many skills while having the edge of youth and a positive attitude that cannot be stopped.

Plus, if I get bit, she can turn me into a sentient head and I'll just hang around on Agatha's hip until the whole thing is resolved.  S'cool.

Okay, I've got my tech geek and I've got my combatant, now I just need my survivalist who'll help us keep track if the group of local survivors want to help us or kill us and take our stuff.  Who can I call on for that?

3) Vic Sage, a.k.a. The Question

Vic Sage is an odd choice, I agree, but there are certain attributes that I think he brings to the team that makes him essential.  One, he sees connections where nobody else can.  The man has perception down to an insane level, where he's able to connect boy bands to global warming and the girl scouts to crop circle phenomenon.  Two, he never gets worked up.  Whether it's ancient horrors, like above, or alien yeti hybrids, he knows how to survive and simply says "Obvious, with hindsight" like it's something he should have predicted.  Nothing fazes this man (or if it does, you can't tell with that mask).  Three, he was trained in combat by Lady Shiva.

I've discussed Lady Shiva before, so hopefully people have realized that this is no small feat.  Against the best martial artists in the world, he might be seriously outclassed, but being a skilled martial combatant as well as a skilled gunfighter should help him survive a zombie apocalypse.

But there's one other thing I need him around for, and that's to observe everyone we meet.  As someone who has seen many movies and played many video games about zombie apocalypses (apocalypsi?), I know that the "end of the world" drives other people out of their gourd, all inhibitions flee like rats from a sinking ship, and they'll stab their own mother because "what's the point?"

Vic Sage can read people like they're wearing their TV Trope identity on a chalkboard hanging around their neck.  That's a completely under appreciated skill post-end of all, and one that I think makes him a key player.

And now, the bonus round!  Historical figures only!

...well, if I'm going to play dirty, I'll go with the fictional versions of historical figures.  In which case I'm taking Nikola Tesla from Atomic Robo, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, and Diana, Warrior Princess.

If they can't be fictional renditions, then I'm going with Jack Lucas, Simo Hayha, and Jasper Maskelyne.

Remember to keep those questions coming!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bite-Sized Reviews: Haribo

It is a scientific fact that the best candies are gummy candies.  Hard candies might have longer flavor, and dark chocolate has its health benefits, but for the best infusion of sugar, you really can't beat a gummy candy.  The best gummy candy, of course, comes from Haribo, and they have a variety that the United States almost never sees.

Once again, when I was in Europe, I experienced Haribo flavors and candies that make me weep for this nation.  We might be leading the world in "landing on Mars" technology and in "ways to make fast food less healthy," but we are falling behind in key fields that I think truly reflect why we're starting to fall behind in the world.  Japan's extensive collection of Kit-Kat bars is evidence enough, but our dearth of clever gummy creations keeps nations in Europe up with us.

I'd like to ask, no, implore everyone who reads this blog to do their part to try to bring more Haribo products to our mainstream stores.  After all, why settle for just a bear, worm, or fish when you could consume frogs, dinosaurs, pirates, stars...essentially any other shape your imagine could create?  If this is truly the best time in life to be alive, then there really is no excuse as to why our gummy options are so limited without paying extravagant prices through import retailers.

So go out and have yourself a gummy candy and remember the days when candy was fun

Monday, January 28, 2013

10 More "Classic" Video Game Covers (and other images!)

As stated before, I love the website oh video games.  It's one of the first things I've encountered during my dabbles with tumblr, and if everything else holds up to this quality of nostalgia and entertainment (spoiler alert: it won't) I look forward to seeing more!

So let's look back at 10 more things from video games I recall better than what I had for breakfast yesterday.

First, an ad, but I remember this game.

Okay, this one needs some back story.  See, in Japan they had this game about a cyborg cop who went around killing parasite-like creatures.  However, in America, they thought "hey, you know what's popular?  Street Fighter II is popular. So why don't we take Ken and have him turn into a super cop in the year 2010 and have to fight monsters across dimensions?"  Because that's precisely what I thought the logical step from that original game was, and the fact that "Blanka, P.I." doesn't yet exist is just one more thing that makes me not want to get out of bed in the morning.

That is not an egg.  That is a shaven, solitary part of a male genitalia trying to "drop" down a level, but worried about smacking itself against a bar like so many young men dread.  Meanwhile, it is being chased by what I can only assume is some horrible vagina dentata with pipe cleaner legs.

Okay, first off, that is one well-drawn woman for a game cartridge for those days.  Moving on, there are two important things to note:

1) This is not all related to Marvel Comics, though that face he has is obviously some kind of mutant power.  It ranks him right up there with Beak for "man, God sure hated you, huh?"

2) There seems to be a recurring theme, along with Chuckie Egg II about things with teeth or other sharp implements trying to destroy a man's genitals.  Maybe there's a continuity between these games, the touching story of a man's genitalia attempting to complete the transition from boyhood to manhood as puberty strikes, followed by the foolish younger days when tight shorts and cut-off shirts were cool (also called the 80s).  You'd try to sleep with any woman who seemed to know how to unclasp their own bra with only one hand as you tried to complete that passage to being a man.  But surely this doesn't follow the standard Hollywood "trilogy" formula, right?

Holy crap, it's the same guy, just all grown up and in his gritty "90s" phase. There are two things about this picture I love.  One is that he figured the best way to accessorize his pig-nosed appearance was with blue lipstick and tiny red sunglasses.  The other is that, wherever this world is that these characters exist in, what the woman is wearing is considered formal attire, as evidenced by the fancy long gloves. 

Let's move on to something less perverse.

There are often times people who buy video games are disappointed by what the contents actually are.  For instance, I just learned recently that the game Dead Island, though the box clearly states "2-4 co-op" without requiring the use of playing online, doesn't let you have your friends join you for killing zombies.

This game, however, I don't think anybody could really complain about.  What is it?  It's a cartridge.  A cartridge for the game "Ghost House."  It says so right on the cartridge.  The only thing that you might complain about is the fact there's no house, or that it isn't an actual sized image.

 I look at this game, and I see thought balloons, dot patterns in the background, and simple-colored artwork of people who seem to be in conflict.  I can only hope- no, I can only pray that this game takes place in the same world as the classic "young romance" series of comic books.

If there was actually a game called "M.A.D. Games" (complete with backward "e") that had games based on the titles of old classic comic romance stories, I'd own it just to show people how insane things could be.  Who wouldn't want to play games called "The Man I Kept On A String," "The Savage In Her," "My Mother, My Rival," or "Back Door Love?"  ...okay, maybe not that last one.  ...yeah, let's just move on.  This column has taken a disturbing turn.

Anybody who played the music video games of the 90s knows just how bad they are, but for those who don't, I can only implore you to look at the expression on that young man's face.  That would be my face if I died, went to Hell, and was told my punishment was to play those games for the rest of eternity, never stopping.  Also, an important note, on the back left, I don't remember C&C Music Factory consisting of Carlton Banks and DJ Jazzy Jeff.

... I'm really not sure what to make of this.  I assume that the cyclops (they have horns?  Help me out, mythology geeks) and the dragon are erupting from separate arcade machines, but how many arcade machines had joysticks attached to them?  Plus, how are you supposed to buy this game in a shop?  "Yes, I'd like one copy of AAARGH!"  "Are you okay?"  "What?"  "Huh?"

My guess is that whoever was in charge of designing the game couldn't think of a proper title, so he just scribbled down his frustration on a piece of paper and sent it up to management to let them know he was having trouble.  One thing led to another, and "ta-da."

I'm going completely off the box art on this one, as I have no memory of this game.  So my assumption is that the spaceships are the heroes, tasked with destroying two women of the future whose hairstyles aren't actually hairstyles.  Instead, they have both become possessed and are hosts for eldrich Lovecraftian horrors, constantly twisting and straining against the the confines of both the boundaries of our universe and the strong hold of L.A. Looks hair gel.

Okay, let's end with a commercial from the site.  It's time for an awesome rap!

 I'll admit, I remember that game fondly.  But it's only the second best musical commercial ever made involving a Zelda game.  The first, obviously, is this:

And that's real.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Podblast! StarTalk

I am convinced that, no matter where he is at any given time, Neil Degrasse Tyson (not to be confused with the TV show Degrassi) is probably one of the, if not the, smartest person in the room.

He is also the owner of the most awesome vest ever.

A brilliant astrophysicist, I initially found out about him through, of all places, The Daily Show.  Jon Stewart interviewed him about his book The Pluto Files, detailing the discovery, history, and reclassification of the planetoid Pluto.  Now, I'll admit I was upset when Pluto's classification was changed, but after hearing the logic and reasoning behind it, I've come to accept it.

After all, to refuse to change how we classify things when new data is presented pretty much goes against the very nature of "science" in any form.

I picked up his book, read it, and watched him appear a few more times on The Daily Show as a consultant: solving a Rubik's cube as he explained how the universe worked, while still having enough time to point out that the globe The Daily Show uses for its logo spins in the wrong direction.  I don't think I had ever laughed harder at that show.

Later, during episodes of The Universe, I found him again, this time breaking down complex puzzles of science, space, and how things worked on our own world into bits that I could easily digest, whether I was exercising at the gym or watching while curled up in bed.  

So, it seemed inevitable that, while searching for interviews of him on various podcasts, I discovered that he has his own, and it is epic.  Each episode of StarTalk is like a miniature science lesson, but not always about astrophysics.  Usually, Neil Degrasse Tyson- I'm just going to call him Dr. Tyson, since that's how Superman addresses him.

Each week, Dr. Tyson usually has two guests on; a person somehow connected to a specific scientific field, and a comedian/actor to bring some levity and humor to the proceedings.  Now, the comedian is sometimes hit or miss.  Several that have been on come across as "okay, enough intellectual talk, pay attention to ME now" or "yeah, whatever, so, here's my complaint about my life at this moment."  It's like sitting down in front of a warm slice of pie, but right as you're halfway through, someone plants their foot in their face to talk about toe fungus.  Fortunately, these specific comedians don't show up often.

His other guests can range anywhere from active NASA astronauts to actors like Wil Wheaton.  In a day of listening to older episodes, I heard interviews with Moby regarding the science of music, professor James Kakalios discussed superhero science, neuroscientist (and absolutely gorgeous woman way out of my pay grade) Cara Santa Maria discussed the make-up of the brain, and Wil Wheaton discussed the science of Star Trek

Obviously not Dr. Tyson, but she has a Carl Sagan tattoo, and that's just as awesome as the vest.  And more pleasant to look at in candlelight.
These are all brilliant, but there are several episodes that stand out.  His interviews with Michele Nichols made me re-appreciate the original Star Trek series, both for its advances in science fiction, but also for the amazing advances it had in how society viewed other people (that rumored story about Michele Nichols being talked into staying on the show by Martin Luthor King, Jr?  Totally true.)

There was a two-part series discussing salt, one of the most common chemical compounds on our planet, and how it's affected not just health, but the entire path of human history.  The conversations during this show really broke down that there is a great link between things that happen at a cosmic scale and things that happen on a micro scale.  

For one episode, Neil did a tribute to the events of 9/11, and I'll be honest, I couldn't listen to it completely in one hearing.  Hearing the details directly from Neil, no guests around, no jokes being made, just him telling his experience blocks away from where it happened was so haunting, it felt like I was in physical pain.  Not because it was unpleasant, but that this was someone I had such respect for talking about being in this condition, I felt that somehow all I've done in my life up to this point wasn't enough to help in the world.  That during that time, I had failed, as a person, to help somehow when people needed me.

Whether he's discussing what the fashion trends will be once we're in outer space or simply talking about why certain overhyped apocalypses are total bunk, you always get the sense that Neil Degrasse Tyson isn't just excited to know this information, but he's excited at the idea of everybody else knowing and understanding it as well.  The man wants nothing more than for people to educate themselves and ask questions.

Now, while there are some moments where there are a few knocks against some more commonly held belief systems, I don't think that Neil Degrasse Tyson insists people believe what he believes.  He never belittles his guests for having different faith than he does (last I've read, he states he's an agnostic).  He might attempt to decrease some one's reliance on religion to explain how the universe works, but that's only because he's so amazed by everything in the universe, he's actually incapable of believing it was "just made in six days."  With so much information in the universe, I'll admit I frequently agree that I can't just accept things are "as they are" when every day science brings us closer to explaining why.  Or if not explaining it, at least providing more questions to answer.

Or, as he puts it, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."

But if you aren't sure you want to listen to him, why not read some awesome Twitter quotes of his, or simply Google (this is an official verb now, right?) some of his appearances on television?  I think you'll find, like I have, that the man is charming and educational at a level that has not been seen by (occasional guest of his) Bill Nye.

Only with better fashion, naturally.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reviewing is Magic: Episode 7

In his never-ending attempt to keep an open mind regarding interests and hobbies of the people around him, Erik has exposed himself to a wide variety of experiences in the world to figure out why people like the things they like. Some things continue to perplex him, while others....well, sometimes that hook is hard to avoid.  Such is the case of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

So last episode, the adventure aspect of the show returned, with a battle against a bear made of outer space.  That's a sentence I'll never get tired of saying, "bear made of outer space."  For those of you who cry fowl stating that it wasn't a real battle, I say "if sleep tactics work for Pokemon, they work for this."

This episode, we get a small spotlight on Fluttershy, and while some aspects of her are exaggerated for comedic effect, I think this episode does a great job highlighting what makes her great.  So, with the meekest, kindest pony taking center stage, what's our conflict?

Well all right, then!  What could possibly go wrong?

The episode starts with the introduction of one of my other favorite characters from the series, Fluttershy's pet bunny "Angel."  We meet this little guy after getting an idea of what Fluttershy does all day, namely feed an entire menagerie of animals under her care.  I saw some weird otter/ferret creature that she fed fish to, and she even carries worms up for the local birds ((yes, in her mouth, and yes, she does "bleh" afterward).  The bunny, though...this bunny is all attitude.  At the very idea it's eating too fast, it essentially goes "fine, screw your carrot."  And nothing Fluttershy does will get it to eat any more of it.  

After Angel alerts Fluttershy to a cloud of smoke that's arriving to overtake the land (not related to the smog cloud over Bejing visible from space), we get our first view of how Fluttershy is actually viewed by the other ponies in Ponyville.  It isn't pretty.

The words "emergency," "cloud of smoke," and "start over in a new village" are used by her, but since a) Fluttershy's panicked voice is about as loud as the voice every librarian wished you'd speak amongst her books, and b) nobody ever takes her fears seriously, nobody even notices the giant cloud of death until Twilight Sparkle shows up saying that the Princess has tasked her and her friends with dealing with the problem.

Oh, the problem?  Yeah.  It's a grown dragon.  In the cave at the top of a mountain.  Snoring.  It's apparently taking a nap that, if they don't get it to relocate, could plunge Equestria (yes, the whole kingdom) into smoky darkness for a hundred years.

Pinkie Pie has a great line here about, if a dragon is snoring smoke, "he should really see a doctor.  That doesn't sound healthy at all."

So Twilight gets the group hyped up, and Fluttershy...well, she volunteers to stay behind, because wouldn't you?  Twilight insists she come since she's best with wild creatures, but even the other ponies are hesitant to have her along.  After all, as Rainbow Dash points out, "she's afraid of her own shadow." 

No, that isn't a joke.

Someone just watched the X-Files episode "Soft Light."
She has to come anyway, so the whole team gets ready, and we get a sweet "prep for battle" montage!

This is a universe where you can dip your extremities in rainbows and use them for war paint.  This is insane.

Fluttershy is so terrified of dragons, her wings refuse to flap when she hears the dragon snoring from the base of the mountain.  There are multiple moments where her fear halts the team in their tracksMy personal favorite was Applejack's compassion leading her to drag a literally petrified-with-fear Fluttershy around the mountain and up another path, but the avalanche Fluttershy causes was pretty cool, too.

And then we meet the dragon.  And here things go down hill.  Fluttershy, the team's best hope for waking it up and moving it, completely chickens out.  That means it's down to plan B (Twilight trying to negotiate), plan C (Rarity trying to flatter it into leaving), and...well, then there's plan D.

...let's move on.

When none of those work, Rainbow Dash, famously acting before she thinks, tries the last thing you should ever do: kick the dragon in the face.  This...goes poorly.  One single roar, and most of the ponies are down, except for Fluttershy.  So, when you're faced with a giant, red creature of death and destruction, all your allies have fallen, and there's no giant Care Bear Stare around to does the most timid pony in Ponyville take care of the problem?

She gets pissed.

Fluttershy is like the Bruce Banner of ponies.  She keeps every single reaction pushed down, until the point where she can't take it anymore and she Hulks out.  Watch the episode here, when she's done intimidating the hell out of the dragon, it actually whimpers.

Fluttershy lays out the situation and essentially intimidates the dragon into finding a new place to stay, an act that made my go "holy sh-" through the whole block of time I was watching.  She's come a long way from keeping a manticore from tearing her friends apart with a simple smile, but even when the dragon's cowering before her, she's never rude to it, just firm.  She even apologizes for Rainbow Dash kicking it in the face.

Fluttershy is, quite simply, what I think most people wish they could be in dealing with challenges.  Never negative, just strong in their position.  If the internet had more people like that, maybe it'd be worth reading Youtube comments again.

Oh, and don't worry, this won't be the last time we see Fluttershy's personality snap.  There's a ways to go, still, but you do all still have this to look forward to:

Yeah, be afraid.  I know I was.